LEAMINGTON, Ont. – Social service and community support workers at South Essex Community Council, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), have begun strike preparations after conciliation talks failed to produce a settlement between the union and management. Mediation talks are scheduled for November 3rd.
“We would very much prefer reaching a settlement without a strike,” said Jane Swan, president of CUPE 4523. “Unfortunately it feels like our employer is backing us into a corner, and we may have to strike to achieve wage equality and fair working conditions.” CUPE members at the agency previously voted 86% in favour of strike action if a deal cannot be reached. The workers will be in a legal strike or lockout position at 12:01 am on November 14th.
Major stumbling blocks in negotiations include a two-tier wage proposal from the employer, continued wage and benefit inequality, and a management demand to cut work hours to pay for the full-time workers’ wage increase. Mounting workloads are also a major concern.
“Management wants to offer a substantially lower wage increase to part-time workers, and part-time workers have absolutely no benefits,” said Swan. “The employer wants to cut full-time workers’ hours in order to subsidize our own wage increase – essentially cancelling any real increase in our take-home pay.” The union is also trying to establish a cost-shared, defined benefit pension plan. The workers currently have no pension plan.
The 46 full-time and part-time workers provide social services, youth job placement, transportation services for differently abled and senior citizens (Erie Shore Transit), childcare, literacy and language learning, settlement programs for newcomers, meals on wheels, translation, coordination of volunteers and other community support services. The agency serves the communities of Leamington, Kingsville and Wheatley and surrounding areas. Some services are also offered in Windsor, and most programs are delivered in conjunction with municipal, provincial and federal government agencies.
“Our employer may not realize that forcing us into a strike could jeopardize the very existence of our agency,” said Swan. “We will do everything possible to reach a settlement in mediation, but the employer will have to back away from the unfair proposals it currently has on the table.” CUPE is urging clients and community groups to contact the board of directors and Executive Director Mike Hamelin to urge them to do what’s necessary to settle negotiations without a strike.
For further information, please contact:
CUPE National Representative